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japanese foreign policy towards the asean region. >> i don't think japan ever saw asean as a great priority. in fact, in japan's world view, you know, america is number one and europe is number two. and asean was way low in the priorities, you know. and i think the key thing for japanese policymakers to understand today is that today europe represents the past. america represents the present. and asia, including southeast asia, represents the future. this is now the future of the world. >> reporter: southeast nations are gaining confidence thanks to their rising economic power. leaders from china frequently visits member nations of asean. three years ago, china and asean abolished most bilateral free trade agreements and tariffs. the deal created the world's largest free trade zone where the combined population of 1.9 billion people. mahbubani says the trade agreement represented a diplomatic defeat for japan. >> it's interesting that the first country to propose a free trade agreement with asean was not japan. it should have been japan. japan should be one step ahead of china in its dealin
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